What is spyware and how do you get it? Spyware/Adware is a technology that is installed on a computer without the owner’s consent. It is designed to collect personal information about you or your organization from your computer. Information such as the web sites that you visit, your username and passwords, is usually relayed to advertisers or other interested parties. Spyware can also be referred to as malware, parasites, spybot and tracking software. The spyware technology may deliver annoying or improper pop-up ads, redirect your browser to certain web sites or cause abnormal browsing behavior, and slow down your computer. Here is SANS Top 15 Malicious Spyware Actions . Spyware is downloaded to your computer from the websites you visit as a software virus, or as a result as of installing a program when you agree to download another program. Sometimes it is even stated in a user agreement and when you agree/accept to download a program you wish to have, you also unknowingly agree to download spyware. Sometimes is installed as the result of clicking some option in a deceptive pop-up window. Some software claims to be free but does not reveal that it also contains spyware. What types of spyware are out there? Different spyware performs a variety of different actions. The list of the different types of spyware keeps growing. Here are just a few common spyware types: Adware, Backdoor trojans, Keyloggers, Botnet worms, Password stealers, Browser Helper Objects (BHO), Page or Browser Hijackers and many others. Get more information on the types of the spyware from the following sites: Encyclopedia of Computer Parasites Wikipedia also provides the following list of notable programs distributed with spyware: What Types of Spyware are Out There? Keyloggers: How They Work and How to Detect Them Wikipedia’s Adware List Bonzi Buddy Dope Wars EDonkey2000 Grokster Kazaa Morpheus RadLight WeatherBug SpyEagle is a spyware program that is disguised as an antivirus program. What are the symptoms of having spyware on a computer? Here are a few symptoms of spyware running on a computer: Nonstop pop-up windows or ads Redirection to websites other than what is typed into the browser address bar Your Internet homepage has suddenly changed New and unexpected toolbars in the web browser New and unexpected icons on the system tray at the bottom of your screen Certain keys fail to work, for example the Tab key Random error messages Your default search engine has changed Your computer seems to be running very slowly when opening programs or processing tasks (saving files, etc.) How can I avoid getting spyware? Follow these simple rules to prevent downloading spyware on your computer: Never allow downloads from unknown/untrusted websites. Don’t install or download anything without knowing exactly what it is. Be aware of free software – you might download spyware when you mean to only download programs such as utilities, games, toolbars, or media players. Carefully read all agreements and privacy statements. Avoid clicking on links unless you know it’s safe. Don’t click on links within pop-up windows! Creators of spyware software use pop-up ads and dialogs to trick people into loading their software. Banners such as “You have won!” or “Click to collect your prize!” are examples of such tricks. Just one time clicking on the window may install spyware on your computer. Close the pop-up window by click on the “X” icon instead of a “close” link within the window. Clicking buttons that say “CLOSE” or “NO” will install the spyware on your computer! Another safe way to close a pop-up window or a suspicious webpage is to press Alt+F4 on your keyboard. Don’t follow email links claiming to offer free software or even anti-spyware software – these links may actually install the spyware. When you are getting their program for free, chances are they are selling your email address to spammers or installing spyware on your computer. Be very careful of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services. Even the most popular applications such as Kazaa and EDonkey2000 include spyware in their installation procedures. Install anti-virus software and run a full scan on your computer regularly. Run a spyware detection and removal program. Anti-spyware software packages that work well are: Malwarebytes, Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware. Install the most current version of the web browsers you are using. Adjust your browser security settings to medium or higher and learn how to block or limit pop-up windows. Deny the browser permission to install any ActiveX control you haven’t requested. Visit following sites for more information Evaluating Your Web Browser’s Security Settings by US-CERT . How to Change Internet Explorer Security settings Mozilla Firefox’s Security Panel options Browsing Safely: Understanding Active Content and Cookies by US-CERT. Always update your operating system.